As probably everyone can attest to, there’s a big difference between being a boss and being a leader. And if you’re a manager right now, you’re probably striving to be the latter—no one wants to be the guy who his team complains about the second he leaves happy hour. While there are a lot of different strategies to making that happen, one of the biggest is setting aside time for a weekly one-on-one meeting.
And perhaps more importantly, you have to look at it as more than just a typical meeting. This is your chance to connect with your employees and let them know you’re there to support them. So, how can you do that effectively?
Erica Baker, an engineer at Slack, started a Twitter thread recently that inspired bosses from all over to share the best questions they have for their one-on-one meetings:
Prompted from a leadership channel in one of my Slack teams: if you're a manager, what questions do you find important/always ask in a 1:1?— EricaJoy (@EricaJoy) October 22, 2016
After seeing it and being impressed by the responses, I reached out to ask her why she decided to post this tweet.
“I’m doing a lot of research into managing lately, as I’d like to move into a management role in the near future,” says Baker. “I’ve learned that management styles and the ways managers approach one-on-one’s vary widely. I wanted to expand the pool of people I got feedback on this subject from. Great ideas and thoughts can come from anywhere, right? So I figured, why not ask Twitter and see what kind of responses I get?”
What impressed me so much was that most of the people who responded to her didn’t suggest questions like, “Did you finish that report?” or “How’s that memo coming along?” Instead, they focused on how to build and improve upon the manager-employee relationship. Their questions exemplified empathy, compassion, and respect for their direct reports.
Among my favorites are:
@EricaJoy "What 1 thing can we do for you to make this week better?" Not necessarily problem-solving, but investing in potential for more.— bradley fields (@bradleyfields) October 22, 2016
@EricaJoy what am I not doing for you that I should be?— pr☠️tected st💀tic (@protectedstatic) October 22, 2016
@EricaJoy On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being micromanaged, 10 having no focus, how much direction do you have, what would you like that to be?— Karla L. Monterroso (@karlitaliliana) October 22, 2016
@EricaJoy "was there anything that happened this week that you didn't get to process or talk over but have feelings/thoughts about?"— charley (@_charleyw) October 24, 2016
Baker believes these are the best kinds of questions any manager should ask his or her colleagues: “I feel like a one-on-one is the place where you can stop talking about project planning and technical details and really get into human interactions that not only further understanding between manager and employee, but also build trust between the two people, which is critical for a good working relationship. Using that time to just do more planning seems like a wasted opportunity.” And she assures me that she’ll definitely use these questions when she becomes a manager.
So, the next time you sit down to have a one-on-one meeting, don’t just cover the “work stuff.” Use this precious time to check in on the person and gauge how they’re feeling. It won’t just make your employee feel better and more confident, but it’ll guarantee that everyone’s doing their best work each and every day.